The White Rhinoceros, known in scientific terms as the Ceratotherium simum, is also called the Square-Lipped Rhino for its flat, straight upper lip (unlike the hook-lip of the Black Rhinoceros). The name “white” has nothing to do with the colour of its skin, which ranges from a murky brown to a stunning charcoal grey. It actually comes from the Dutch word “weid”, referring to the wide, flat lip. This lip’s shape enables the White Rhino to graze on flat, grassy plains;being able to pick the grass easily, without hindrance from a protruding lip.

The White Rhinoceros is much larger and heavier than the Black Rhino. In fact, the White and Indian rhinos are the largest land mammals in existence, after the elephant. Females are slightly smaller than males. Female rhinos average a weight of about 1 500 kilograms, which is equivalent to just over 3 300 pounds. Males, on the other hand, average about 2 150 kilograms, or 4 630 pounds. The White Rhino female reaches a length (from the nose to the base of its tail) of about 3.5 metres or 11.5 feet. Males are about 3.8 metres (or 12.5 feet) long. From the ground to the top of the shoulder, females measure about 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) and males average 1.8 metres, or almost 6 feet (the height of the average human man). Their tails are about 0.7 metres long.

A white rhinoceros male with food in its mouth. Photo taken in Eastern Cape nature reserve, Republic of South Africa.

The White Rhino grazes from ground-level grasses, so it needs to have a strong muscle that can be used to raise the massive head. Therefore, there is a muscular bulge behind its head that is simply not necessary on other rhino subspecies. This gives it a particularly bulky appearance.

The White Rhino has two horns on its snout. One is far more prominent than the smaller one behind it. This horn is made entirely of keratin;the substance of human hair and nails. It is not attached to the skull, and there is no bone in its physical structure. It will continue to grow if it is trimmed or removed. The average length of the front horn is just less than a metre. These horns are present in equally impressive size and nature in both male and female rhinos. The smaller horn can reach a length of up to about 55 centimetres.

White Rhinos have hooves with three distinct toes on each. These hooves protect the feet from thorns and twigs, and enable the rhino to dig in the sand. Interestingly, the White Rhinoceros has the widest-set nostrils of any animal living on land.

The White Rhino faces extinction along with the other rhino subspecies. It is imperative that we make every effort to conserve these magnificent mammals before it is too late.